Doers and Bureaucrats


Out of the billions of people who comprise the human race, a few actually do something. They are doers.

The rest spring into action once a doer does something—to follow, criticize, study, rank, label, catalogue, legislate, anthologize, punish, reward, or interpret, and in most cases collect the proceeds. They are bureaucrats.

Anybody who tells you that what you think, do, write, or feel has already been thought, done, written, or felt is a bureaucrat, because they keep up with that shit. Everybody knows it’s all been thought, done, written, and felt.

And anybody who in any field of endeavor—for example, art—tells you always do this, never do that, avoid this, imitate that, is a bureaucrat and doesn’t realize that when you can list rules of creativity you are dealing with a dead art form. Bureaucrat intelligence is never original but primarily the ability to detect a match, or the lack of one. Thinking like a bureaucrat turns the continuous flow of reality into compartments and consigns the meaning of life to the superficial. The joy of life, sometimes its terror (can’t have one without the other), is discovering something for which there is no compartment in your mind. Bureaucrats will have none of that.

And speaking of technological utopianism, it is the illusion that life is essentially composed of segments, and that we could live forever going from one to another; that, as long as we have the elements we want in a situation, life will be full and good. But who could have foretold that the heart grows old? In fact, our existence is an arc—like everything it moves from a beginning to an end, which is the source of its meaning. The idea that technology can change the terms of life (cure death!) is as vacuous as any utopianism has ever been. Life as we experience it is impossible to continue in an unchanging state. Nature kills, and tries again. This is why most older people, if you ask them if they would do it over, say no. They would prefer their progeny to do it for them because this is how nature works: death and rebirth. Even if that creates horrors of its own in the Little League bleachers.

But can people living on planets untilted on their axes, and therefore without seasons, conceive of rebirth?


Please don’t accuse me of believing that humanity divides cleanly into doers and bureaucrats. It is that choose-your-team way of thinking I most detest. We are all both, sequentially and simultaneously. And it isn’t only the brick walls you hit in all bureaucratic structures, but the bureaucrat within your own mind, that thwarts you. The only healthy thing about that little executive in your cranium is that in trying not to identify with it, you have to come up with something else to be. But I will say, I think it’s better when the something else you come up with originates outside the system rather than within it. “Within it” awakens the image of “movements.” Movements in a complex society are as inevitable as the tides, and can be constructive, but they come with a lot of collateral damage. People will sell their souls to be part of something, and often look like lemmings in retrospect, and the movements they so passionately followed contrived and doomed.

Bureaucrats keep the house in order, yes, but they are also dangerous. Since they can’t do anything original they feel it is their right to tell other people what to do, and the way they end up with the money reminds you of a black hole. Even God warned about them:

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.

Ezekiel 34: 1-6

Ancient Israel, modern America—what has changed?

The higher on the food chain you go, the less you see what is below you, and the easier it is to dismiss its suffering. Bureaucrats make it too easy to prefer an abstraction over real human feeling, too easy to justify cruelty with a creed—as in the slaughter of innocents followed by “God is great!” Or hiding from the evil around you in air-conditioned churches. And if left to evolve unimpeded, like a rotting fish on the beach bureaucrats grow too easily into fascists.

A million examples—but for brevity, consider Jesus and the Scribes and the Pharisees, not to mention the Romans.

Or the Spanish Inquisition.

The Crusades.

Franco’s falangists and Garcia Lorca.



October 17, 2018

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